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Many questions remain as authorities probe Waukesha parade tragedy


Let's start with what we know so far. We know that at least five people are dead and more than 40 are hurt after the driver of a red SUV plowed through the Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wis. The victims include a young girls dance team, a troupe of dancing grannies and Catholic schoolchildren. Shawn Reilly is the mayor of Waukesha.


SHAWN REILLY: Today, our community faced horror and tragedy in what should have been a community celebration.

MARTÍNEZ: What we do not know is why the driver smashed into yesterday's parade. Chuck Quirmbach with member station WUWM is with us now. Chuck, what are investigators saying about what and why this happened?

CHUCK QUIRMBACH, BYLINE: Well, the city's annual holiday parade - they still call it a Christmas parade in Waukesha - in downtown was underway when police say the vehicle in question drove through barricades and sped through the parade route around 4:40 Sunday afternoon. The vehicle then began hitting dozens of people. Police Chief Dan Thompson told a news briefing last night that a police officer of his then tried to stop the driver by firing his gun at the vehicle. The chief said he doesn't believe any shots were fired from inside the vehicle. Thompson did say that after the officer fired, the vehicle eventually stopped, and a person of interest is in custody; the community of Waukesha is now safe.

MARTÍNEZ: So no known motive or even if there was a motive.

QUIRMBACH: Well, none stated by the police or the mayor. In two brief news conferences last night, they didn't take many questions at the first briefing and refused to take any questions at the second one.

MARTÍNEZ: The person of interest, the person who is in custody, what do we know about that person?

QUIRMBACH: Well, about all we know is that police Chief Thompson said there was no known link to terrorism. We're expecting to hear more, hopefully much more, during a news briefing at 1 o'clock Central Time. There's also a potential for officials to release other information on social media.

MARTÍNEZ: What's the reaction been in the community there?

QUIRMBACH: A combination of sadness, disbelief, shock. The Waukesha schools are closed for the day, but the school district says counselors will be available to students and staff. I'd just say if you've been in a parade or had kids or other relatives in one or simply gone to watch and listen to a parade, it's usually a time of happiness, pride and joy. The exact opposite here.

MARTÍNEZ: So what happens today, Chuck?

QUIRMBACH: Well, beside the expected news conference, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers is promising the state will stay in touch with local partners and potentially help. The FBI's Milwaukee office says the bureau is assisting with the investigation.

MARTÍNEZ: All right, that's Chuck Quirmbach with member station WUWM. Chuck, thank you.

QUIRMBACH: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Chuck Quirmbach is a Milwaukee-based reporter who covers developments and issues in Southeastern Wisconsin that are of statewide interest. He has numerous years of experience covering state government, elections, the environment, energy, racial diversity issues, clergy abuse claims and major baseball stadium doings. He enjoys covering all topics.